Natchitoches in the Great War

By Kevin Shannahan

Natchitoches’ Grand Ecore Visitor’s Center hosted a fun and educational exhibit and talk about the First World War and Natchitoches’ place in the war Nov. 3. Ms. Sharon Wolff, Assistant Archivist at NSU’s Cammie G, Henry Research Center was the main speaker.

Ms. Wolff brought an army helmet and mess kit from WWI from the archive’s collections. She spoke about Natchitoches residents who served as well as the contributions of students from the Louisiana Normal College as NSU was named then. Over 350 students went into the military with 10 of them dying in service. There was a year in which the college had no male students of military age on campus. Female students contributed to the war effort with bond drives and first aid supplies.

The talk also tied into larger events and how they related to Natchitoches. The flu epidemic that started shortly before the war ended and went on into 1919 was a world-wide event that killed millions of people, including several local soldiers. The Normal College campus did not hold classes for a semester during the epidemic to help avoid the disease’s spread.

Ms. Wolff’s presentation was followed by several local residents and history fans who showed memorabilia from the era, postcards and spoke of family history.